Horseradish, Apple & Beetroot Relish

This is one of my favourite relishes (taken from Jennifer McGruther’s fabulous The Nourished Kitchen) and one that is very familiar to my husband who is of Jewish heritage. Horseradish, or Chrain, is a member of the brassica family and, alongside its more popular counterparts cabbage, kale and broccoli, is a particularly rich source of glucosinolates. These chemicals have been widely studied and found to be protective against cancer and help to safely process sex hormones through the liver.

Horseradish is considered a bitter herb and so is also used to help stimulate the production of bile, which not only helps to support good digestion and the elimination of waste from the body, but also good sex hormone regulation.

Anyone who has ever grated fresh horseradish will be aware of its pungency! It has been traditionally used to treat bronchitis and sinusitis by opening up airways, expelling mucus and exerting an antibiotic effect (it certainly cleared my sinuses!).

This recipe partners horseradish with apple and, my absolute favourite ‘dessert island’ vegetable, beetroot, which not only sweetens the bitter notes but also adds to the nutritional potency.

We have come across a lot of wild horseradish on our Wild Food Adventures, but it is illegal to dig up the roots of any plant in the wild (even one as invasive as horseradish), however my fabulous friend Sandra happily provided the horseradish used in this recipe from her allotment where, she said, it was behaving like a complete brute!

I did discover however that the leaves can also be used in pickling and may not only impart some mustard flavour but may also help to keep pickled cucumbers crunchy. A recipe to try in the new year …

Horseradish, Apple & Beetroot Relish

Fills about 3 x 500ml kilner jars

Ingredients
  • 450g apples, peeled and cored
  • 550g beetroot, peeled
  • 225g horseradish, peeled
  • 1tbs fine sea salt (plus more if needed)

Method

Grate the beetroot, apples and horseradish (I do this in a food processor). This sounds a simple instruction, but the smell from the horseradish is enough to strip paint, so ensure you do this in a very well-ventilated room and have tissues on stand-by!

Transfer into a large mixing bowl and add stir in the salt. Massage the mixture for about 3 minutes to help to start to break up the fibers of the fruits and vegetables (you may find wearing a pair of food gloves very useful here!).

Transfer the mixture into sterile preserving jars, pounding down as you go, using a wooden spoon or the end of a rolling pin to release the juices and create a natural ‘brine’.

The brine should completely cover the vegetables. If it doesn’t, make up some additional brine by dissolving 1tsp sea salt in 250ml of water and pour in enough to ensure that the vegetables are submerged.

Seal the jars and place in a warm spot in the kitchen to ferment, then retire to a cool room to bathe your stinging eyes … (horseradish is a brute in the kitchen as much as in the earth!).

Check on the jar daily to ensure that the vegetables are still submerged and top up with more brine if required.

Taste the relish after 10 days to check the flavour. If you prefer a more sour flavour, then leave for a further 5-7 days. When you are happy with the flavour, transfer to the fridge, where it can be stored for 6 months or longer.

Grape Jelly

These amazing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes came courtesy of some lovely neighbours who have had a bumper harvest this year. These grapes were small, sweet and seedless and were delicious to eat as they were, but I wanted to try and preserve some of the grape goodness a bit longer, so I made some grape jelly.

Pectin levels were quite low, so the result is really more of a thick syrup (adding extra pectin would have helped here), but still a lovely consistency to stir into warm porridge or to add depth to autumn stews. Rather than sugar, I used Sweet Freedom in this recipe in an attempt to make something sweet, but with a lower GI.

The amazing colour comes the polyphenol resveratrol (mainly found in the skins of the fruit) which acts as an antioxidant and has potent anti-inflammatory action in the body. It is also a phytoestrogen and as such may help to modulate sex hormone levels. 

Grape Jelly

Ingredients

  • 1 kg red grapes (made 1 litre of fruit puree)
  • 750ml Sweet Freedom
  • Juice of 2 lemons 

Method

Wash the grapes and remove any stalks.

Put the grapes into a large saucepan and add just enough water to almost cover them.

Bring to simmering point, then cook gently for about 30 minutes, or until the grapes are soft. You can mash the grapes using a potato masher to help release the juices, but I found a stick blender more effective.

Strain the grape mixture through a sieve to remove any skins or seeds (all of the flavour and nutrients will now be in the liquid). 

Measure the liquid and, for every litre, add 750ml of Sweet Freedom.

Return the mixture to a clean saucepan and gently heat, stirring to dissolve the syrup into the juice. Add the juice of 2 lemons, then increase the heat and allow it to boil for about 8 minutes before turning off the heat and testing.

To test, simply pour a teaspoon of the liquid onto a cold saucer (I chill mine in the freezer beforehand). Return the saucer to the fridge for a minute or so, then test for set by pushing your finger into the liquid. If it wrinkles and a skin forms, it has reached setting point. If not, return to the heat and boil for another 3-4 minutes, before testing again. Keep repeating the process until it is ready.

I cooked mine for about 30 minutes before giving up and accepting that I will probably only have a thick syrup, but at least it would not have all boiled away to nothing!

Remove any scum that has formed on the surface, then pour the jelly (or syrup) into warm sterilized jars and seal.

Apple Crumble for Breakfast

So perhaps this is more of a deconstructed apple crumble, but the flavours are all still there and I really do like the idea of eating a pudding for breakfast.

I don’t really have a recipe for the apples – I generally make it up as I go along, so I have done my best to remember the ingredients I last used, but please do adapt this to your own taste.

I serve my breakfast crumble with some live yoghurt and a blob of chia jam (currently this is plum – see separate blog for the recipe).

Packed full of soluble fibre, polyphenols and friendly bacteria; this is heaven for gut health and a gentle way to help keep you regular!

Stewed Apples

Serves 2

Ingredients                                                                                          

  • 2 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced into fat slices
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1cm length of ginger root, grated
  • 1cm length of turmeric root, grated
  • 1tbsp xylitol (or sweetener of choice)
Method 

Put the sliced apples and lemon juice into a saucepan, along with all the spices, and add a little water.

Heat the apples gently to simmering point and cook until the apples are just soft and not too mushy (not that it really matters). Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and allow it to cool and the flavours to infuse.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. 

Crumble Topping

Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients                                                                                          

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g oats
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
  • 2 ½ tablespoons maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt
Method 

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / gas 6.

Put the oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, cinnamon and a good pinch of sea salt into a bowl.

Pour the coconut oil and maple syrup into a small saucepan and heat until the oil has melted.

Add the oil and syrup to the oat mixture and mix well to ensure the oats and nuts are all coated (this is easiest done with your hands).

Spread the mixture out onto a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown, turning every 4 minutes or so to help prevent burning,

Allow to cool in the tray, then transfer to an air-tight container, and keep in a cool dark place.

If you’re thinking that my stewed apples look a little fluorescent, that will be the turmeric effect – pure colour therapy!

Autumn Salad

A seasonal salad of roasted butternut squash and beetroot served with tender kale leaves (not cooked, but simply rubbed with olive oil and a little sea salt) scattered with the roasted seeds of the butternut squash and decorated with flowers from my beautiful garlic chives. Simple, but very satisfying and all homegrown (every meal should have flowers on it!).

Usually I add shelled pumpkin seeds to my salads, however for this recipe I have toasted the whole squash seed (including the case). These seeds do need a bit more prep (and a bit more chewing), however they also contain more zinc than shelled pumpkin seeds. Most of the zinc is found in the papery ‘endosperm’ envelope which lies between the seed and the shell and therefore is usually lost during shelling. It is also very satisfying using the whole butternut squash – seeds and all!

Roasted Squash Seeds

Scrape the seeds from inside the squash and give them a good wash in cold water, removing any pumpkin flesh or stringy bits.

If you plan ahead, it is a good idea to soak the seeds in water for a few hours or overnight, as this will help soften the seeds and aid digestibility, however this stage is optional.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C / 356˚F / gas mark 4.

Put the seeds into a saucepan of boiling water to cook for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

Next, transfer the seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with some olive oil.

Season the seeds with a little sea salt and whatever spices or herbs take your fancy (I particularly like a combination of cumin, smoked paprika and garlic salt) and toss them around to ensure they are all coated.

Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then give them a stir before baking for another 5 minutes or until they are golden and smell nutty.

Allow them to cool, then transfer into an air-tight container until required.

Theses tasty seeds make a great snack on their own or can be added to a breakfast granola (probably not with the garlic salt flavouring!) or used as a topping for a seasonal salad.

Purple Plums

Flavoursome plums are not always easy to find; their rich colour so often hides a disappointingly insipid taste. In previous years I have been lucky enough to forage wild damsons but this year I was either beaten to it, or the trees had a poor harvest but, either way, I had to resort to supermarket plums. My purchased plums however were surprisingly tasty and were blended together with some chia seeds to make a delicious plum ‘jam’. 

Plums, and chia seeds, are an excellent source of soluble fibre which can help support a healthy digestive tract, plus plums also contain chlorogenic acid, which is a natural laxative. So, all in all, a very delicious way to keep regular!

I couldn’t resist a blob of ‘jam’ on a piece of crusty bread, but my favourite way to eat it is with stewed apples, yoghurt and granola for a tasty autumnal breakfast.

Plum Chia Jam

Makes about 600ml

Ingredients                                                                                        

  • 1 ½ punnets of plums (approx. 8 large plums) 
  • A little water
  • 4 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 slices of ginger root
  • 1tbs Sweet Freedom (or sweetener of choice)
Method 

Wash the plums, then cut them in half and remove the stone, before chopping them into quarters.

Put the plums into a saucepan with a little water and add a cinnamon stick and 2 slices of ginger root. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the plums are soft.

Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices, then whizz the fruit with a stick blender to make a puree. 

Taste the puree and sweeten if necessary (I added 1 tbs of Sweet Freedom to 600ml of fruit puree).

When you are happy with the flavour, add the chia seeds and mix well.

Set aside for at least 20 minutes (or ideally overnight in the fridge) to allow the chia seeds to absorb the juice and thicken the ‘jam’. 

Delicious on pancakes, or drizzled over stewed apple, porridge, plain yoghurt, or whizzed into smoothies … or just enjoyed on a slice of crusty bread!

Rosehips and Leather

Now is a perfect time to start gathering your rosehips which are abundant in the gardens and hedgerows. All rosehips are edible, although one of the best is the humble Dog Rose which you may find rambling around common land.

Tradition has it that rosehips are best picked after the first frost (a bit like sloes) as the freezing process makes the fruit more juicy and flavoursome, however home freezing has the same beneficial results and means less waiting! (24 hours in the freezer will do it).

Packed full of vitamin C and polyphenols, these fruits were invaluable during World War II, and children were paid 3d per lb to collect rosehips to be made into a syrup which would help keep the nation healthy throughout the winters.

Not all of the fruit is good to eat however, and the seeds inside contain cyanogenic glycocides (as do the seeds of many other fruits however, including apples) but are best avoided in any quantity. They also contain tiny hairs which are an irritant to the skin, gut and respiratory system (and are, in fact, used to make itching powder!) and thus are also best avoided.

The recipe below is a delicious way to enjoy these seasonal treats, with all the potentially problematic bits removed.

Rosehip Fruit Leathers

Makes enough for 2 trays of fruit leathers

  • Ingredients
  • 500g rosehips
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 3 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and grated
  • 5 tbs honey or Sweet Freedom (add to taste)

Method

Put the rosehips into a food processer and whizz until broken into pieces.

Transfer the rosehips into a saucepan with 1.5 litres of water and bring to the boil.

Turn off the heat and allow the rosehips to steep in the hot water for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a scalded jelly bag, or through a double thickness of muslin cloth lining a sieve. Let the pulp sit for at least 30 minutes for the juice to drain through.*

*The rosehips contain tiny hairs which are an irritant. To be sure you have removed all the hairs, some recipes suggest that you pass all the strained liquid through a clean jelly bag or another double-layer of muslin cloth for a second time just to be sure you catch them all.

Pour the strained liquid into a clean saucepan and add the grated apples.

Bring back up to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the apple is soft and becomes a puree (I then whizzed this with a hand-blender to make it super-smooth). 

At this point, taste your puree and add any sweetener (I used 5 tablespoons of Sweet Freedom).

Line two baking trays (approx 20cm x 40cm) with a base layer of baking paper (which also covers the sides) and place a silicon baking mat in the bottom of each. You can just use baking paper, but my last fruit leather stuck tight to it and wouldn’t shift, so this time I invested in a silicon baking mat (fabulous – highly recommended!).

Pour half the fruit puree into each tin. My mixture was quite runny, but if your mixture is thick, you may need to use a palate knife or a spatula to spread it out evenly.

Pop the trays into an oven preheated to 70°C / 160°F for about 12 hours (I left mine overnight) or 140°C / 290°F for about 4-5 hours. If you leave the oven door slightly open, it will help the drying process.

You will know when your fruit leather is ready because it will no longer feel wet and sticky, but ‘tacky’ and will lift off of the tray in one piece. Generally, the middle will be thicker than the sides, so make sure you check both.

When ready, peel the leather off the baking tray and allow it to cool. Snip into shapes or strips (great for fruit roll-ups) and store in a sterilised jar or wrapped in greaseproof paper in an air-tight container.

These should keep for about 1 month (if they haven’t already been eaten!).

Hawthorn Berry Ketchup

The bright red berries from the Hawthorn tree are plentiful at the moment and a gift for any foragers.

A rich source of flavonoids, they have long been used to reduce inflammation and gently, but very effectively support cardiovascular health.

The berries have a sweet, sour taste which lends itself well to both sweet and savoury dishes or can simply be enjoyed as a seasonal tea. Later this autumn, I will be making a fruit leather and a hedgerow jelly using these delicious berries, but today I am making a savoury ketchup to brighten up some autumnal dishes.

Hawthorn Berry Ketchup

Makes approx. 250ml – 300ml

Ingredients 

250g Hawthorn berries

200ml apple cider vinegar

200ml water

80ml honey* (or sugar, or Sweet Freedom)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

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Autumn Wild Food Adventure

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The hedgerows are heavy with berries this year and Janine and I have been busy harvesting in preparation for our Autumn Wild Food Adventure.

Why not join us for a relaxing stroll around Molesey Heath, learning about common medicinal plants and berries, their uses in the past & present and how to use them to make simple home herbal remedies or in delicious recipes.

After our walk we will return to my home to enjoy a delicious afternoon tea featuring recipes created from foraged autumn fruits.

Autumn is all about the berries and in the workshop following afternoon tea, we will pool together our foraged fruits and make a delicious Hedgerow Jelly; learn about the medicinal properties of Elderberries and cook a spiced, anti-viral Elderberry Syrup; explore the folklore surrounding our native Hawthorn and taste Hawthorn Berry Fruit Leathers and a tangy Hedgerow Ketchup; prepare a Christmas tipple with foraged sloes; and create a Personalised Herbal Immune Blend – an alcoholic tincture or honey/vinegar blend, to prepare you for the coming winter months ahead.

We currently have three dates available for our Autumn Wild Food Adventure:

Saturday 19th September 

Sunday 20th September

Sunday 11th October

The cost is £65.00 per person, which includes the herb walk, afternoon tea, workshop & handouts plus homemade foods & remedies to take home.

Places are limited to a maximum of 6 people.

Please be aware that our programme may need to be revised depending upon the latest pandemic advice: we will keep you informed of any necessary changes required to ensure your safety. 

For more details and to book, please contact:

Belinda Blake on 07954 020118 / blakenutrition@googlemail.com

or Janine Gerhardt on 07930 901662 / info@roots-of-nature.co.uk

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Bottled Sunshine!

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However much I love autumn (and I really do) it is always nice to take a little bit of the summer along with you into the darker months ahead.

This year I collected my St John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum), on St John’s day – 24th June, around the time of summer solstice, as thousands would have done before me (if you enjoy foraging, do put this date into your diary for next year!).

The medicinal hypericum used to make St John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) can be found growing wild in woodlands and pastures, but always in the sun. It is distinguishable from other hypericum species by the tiny perforations on the leaves, which can be seen under a botanical lens, and which gives it its name.

The fresh flowers and leaves were allowed to dry out a little in the shade for a couple of days, then went into a sterile jar containing a good quality oil (olive oil in my case, as I had some around the house at the time, but other flavourless oils would also work). This was left on a sunny windowsill to infuse for the next couple of months.

If you do this, place it where you can watch it, because over the next month or so, you will witness the transformation from a colourless oil to one of a deep orange or even a blood red colour. Pure alchemy!

Two months on from harvesting the beautiful St John’s Wort, I now have an amazing deep orange oil that has a pleasant, nutty flavour – bottled sunshine!

Half of this I will use as a skin salve. St John’s Wort has been shown to contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and has long been used for skin complaints. With a fresh burn on my arm (from trying to remove a tasty lasagne from the oven with embarrassingly indecent haste!) it will be interesting to see how quickly the oil might help heal this.

The other half I will use to bring a little of the summer sunshine to my salads during the winter months. St John’s Wort is thought to help improve low mood by working as a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) which works to make serotonin (our feel-good hormone) more available in the body, and has also shown to be helpful for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So perfect for the darker winter months ahead.

Whilst using the St John’s oil topically appears to have no contraindications (although do take advice if you are pregnant or breast-feeding), regularly taking the oil (or any other form of St John’s Wort) internally is different however, and advice should be sought from your GP, nutritional therapist or herbalist, if you are taking any medication, especially antidepressants.

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Fragrance as Therapy

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Once of my favourite summer pleasures is picking lime flowers. The fragrance is quite intoxicating, and they are one of the few flowers that it is nearly impossible to over-pick due to their profusion. The season is short however, so be on the lookout. The flowers are generally hidden away in the shade of the leaves and you might almost miss them, except for the exquisite fragrance that washes over you as you pass. Collecting them is pure therapy!

Lime flower, or Linden flower, tea has been traditionally used as a nervine and has a calming effect on the nervous system – a soothing tea to sip on a hot summer afternoon. It has also been used by herbalists to treat colds and flu, so good to have some on stand-by for the colder months.

This year, rather than make a sugar-heavy cordial, I made an infused, sweetened tea which I have frozen into large ice cubes to defrost and enjoy in the months ahead. I have also made an oxymel (literally translates from the Greek as ‘acid and honey’). Combining the lime flowers with equal measures of honey and apple cider vinegar (both raw if possible) which provides another excellent way to preserve the lime flowers and a very useful cold remedy, as well as an effective digestaid.

 

Lime Flower Tea

Makes about 1.5 litres

Ingredients

  • 2 large handfuls of lime blossoms (shaken free from insects)
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • Approx 4 tablespoons Sweet Freedom (or other sweetener of choice)

Method

  •  Put the lime blossoms into a large heat-proof bowl or jar and cover with boiling water (I used about 1.5 litres). Add the zest from 2 lemons, then leave to infuse for 24 hours.
  • Strain the flowers through a muslin cloth and put the liquid into a saucepan, along with the juice from 1 lemon.
  • Stir in about 4 tablespoons of Sweet Freedom (or sweetener of choice), and check for flavour. Add a little more sweetener / lemon juice if required (it is a very subtle flavour, so take care not to over-whelm it).
  • NB – you can simply freeze this tea without any sweetener if preferred.
  • Heat until just reaching boiling point, then remove from the heat.
  • Pour into warm sterilised bottles and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.
  • Alternatively, allow to cool then pour into ice cube trays and freeze until required.
  • To serve, I dilute my lime blossom tea 50:50 with either hot water or cold fizzy water, and sip mindfully!

 

Lime Flower Oxymel

Makes 1 jar

 Ingredients

  • 1 handful of lime flowers (enough to fill your jar of choice / shaken free of insects)
  • ½ jar of honey
  • Raw apple cider vinegar
  • You will also need a jar

Method

  • Fill half your jar with honey, then squeeze in as many lime flowers as you can, packing them in tightly.
  • Top the jar up with apple cider vinegar and press down the flowers so that they are under the liquid (any flowers above the liquid may potentially go mouldy, so check the jar each day and keep pressing them down).
  • Store your jar in a cool dark place for 2-4 weeks to allow the flavours to infuse, shaking daily.
  • When ready, strain through a muslin cloth to remove the flower heads and store your oxymel in a sterile jar.
  • I enjoy my oxymel as a refreshing drink diluted with fizzy water, but you can take it more medicinally off the spoon if preferred.

 

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